The education of John Stuart Mill in the context of contemporary pedagogical practice
After the publication of his autobiography in 1873, accounts of the home education of J.S. Mill from the age of three have frequently implied criticism of his father's teaching project on the grounds that the programme excluded opportunities for emotional development and contained no socialising procedures; in other words, that he was denied a 'childhood' by a stiff and unsympathetic James Mill, who wished to turn his eldest son into a robotic Benthamite. Examination of the social context reminds us that J.S. Mill's schooling was in accord with contemporary practice in, for example, the early age of commencement, the lack of attention paid to many modern subjects, or the absence of participation in team sports. In other respects, the programme was highly forward-looking: in comparison with the restricted classical syllabus and brutal or mechanical teaching in contemporary English schools, James Mill's curriculum and enlightened teaching methods could and did produce a mind of great sensitivity and precision of thought.
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